A tribute to Dr. Shirish Deshpande

Both by authority of reason and by reason of authority, Dr. Deshpande was one of the greatest teachers and jurists ever produced in India.
A tribute to Dr. Shirish Deshpande
Dr. Shirish Deshpande

With a very heavy heart and infinite amount of sorrow, I must convey the extremely unfortunate news of sad demise of Dr. Shirish Deshpande, Professor at Maharashtra National Law University (MNLU) Nagpur. His sudden and untimely exit has created a huge void in legal academia and the disability rights world.

The former head of the Postgraduate Department of Law at Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University was pivotal in moulding two generations of students in his long and illustrious career. He was an unselfish, generous, and ever approachable teacher.

So far as I am concerned, the loss of Dr Deshpande's company is beyond expression. There were many unique things perpetuating our enduring and lasting bond. Apart from being my teacher, he was a very calming influence on me, whenever I faced any turbulent or crisis, be it personal or professional. He moulded me to indulge in legal abstractions and trained me to look at law with objectivity. He always told me that we have to also pursue the subject of law emotionally.

I was extremely privileged to co-author with him a book on Human Rights, which was his first book. He was my Ph.D. supervisor and it was a unique case in India that both researcher and supervisor were blind. Deshpande sir was a living icon when it came to engaging with the niceties of Jurisprudence, the complexities of Comparative Constitutional Law and the intricacies of Disability Rights. His ability to reproduce quotes from the United States Supreme Court in respect of all celebrated cases made him very special.

Be it Joseph Raz, John Austin, Carl Schmitt, Kelsen, or Pound, Sir would be able to provide deep insights about the philosophies of all these jurists in simple and lucid language. A gold medallist in LL.M. from Nagpur University and a Ph.D. in Constitutional Law, he also left his ink prints at the University of Oxford. There, he happened to work with Prof Paul Craig on the theme of Public Interest litigation in India. Their scholarly article on the same, published in the Oxford Journal of Legal studies, is a locus classicus.

He also left a deep impression at NALSAR, Hyderabad as a very popular teacher of Administrative Law. In my opinion, Dr. Deshpande provided premium-less insurance for the knowledge of law. His repository of knowledge was accessible to every student of his. He was always a telephone call away.

Recently, we happened to publish the article on Legitimate Expectation in the Indian Law Review. The article received the Best Article Award and was cited by Justice DY Chandrachud in one of his recent judgments.

Both by authority of reason and by reason of authority, Dr. Deshpande was one of the greatest teachers and jurists ever produced in India. With his sudden exit, we are all left with nothing but deep disappointment, grief and sorrow.

Let us offer our deep condolences to his family and pray to the Almighty for his serene journey in the next world.

The author is an Associate Professor and Principal (Additional Charge) at ILS Law College, Pune.

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